Fowl play: Northlanders grapple with nationwide turkey shortage

A nationwide turkey shortage, paired with rising food costs are gripping the Northland this holiday season.
Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 4:41 PM CDT
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CLOQUET, MN. (Northern News Now) - A nationwide turkey shortage, paired with rising food costs are gripping the Northland this holiday season.

According to the latest data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), turkey prices are up 28% nationwide compared to 2021. The price of an eight to 16-pound turkey has risen in price from $1.47 a pound, up about $.30 from last year.

It’s no different here in our neck of the woods.

“It’s never a dull moment,” Jacob Richardson, the owner of B&B Market in Cloquet, said.

The market, which sells everything from sausage, to steak to spaghetti sauce, has been a staple in the community for decades.

This year, Northlanders have already started calling in orders for turkeys.

“November 1 is when people start ordering them,” Richardson said.

According to the USDA, Minnesota produced more turkeys, 40 million birds in 2020, more than any other state in the country. This year, however, the birds are harder to come by. Luckily at B&B, they planned in advance for the shortage.

“We order, like, around June for November, just to make sure we have them,” he said.

The shortage comes after the bird flu killed more than 8,000,000 turkeys nationwide, according to the CDC. With less turkeys and rising food costs, B&B market has raised their prices by about $1/lb since 2019. Richardson kept prices from last year the same, in order to keep customers happy.

According to Richardson, several are opting for different proteins for the turkey-centric holiday.

“We had a lot of people switching over to either ham, otherwise a lot of people are trying prime rib this year,’ he said.

Ham is the main item for the DECC’s annual Thanksgiving Day dinner.

“Unfortunately this year, there is no turkey,” Monica Hendrickson, the event’s chair, said.

“We’re trying to play that off and that and you know, eat more ham,” she continued.

Hendrickson has organized the event each year for about nine years now. Like with most shortages, the pandemic is to blame.

“This year we were unable to get the product that we needed due to supply chain issues,” she said.

Each year, the Thanksgiving Day dinners need 500 volunteers to put together between 6,000 and 7,000 meals for Northlanders. They can either enjoy them at the DECC, pick them up or ge them delivered if they’re homebound.

Hendrickson said they normally use “commercially produced” turkeys, which have white and dark meat already separated from the bones of the bird. They could have used traditional bone-in turkeys, but Hendrickson said it would be a logistical problem.

“How much time do we need to cook those turkeys ‘cause they’re a lot bigger, will people get hurt carving those turkeys?” she said.

Amid rising grocery prices, and shortages of a lot of Thanksgiving essentials, more people may be turning towards the DECC’s dinners. Hendrickson just wants to ensure everyone gets fed.

“Ultimately our goal is just to make sure everyone get a warm meal on Thanksgiving,” she said.

For more information on how to participate in the Thanksgiving Dinner, you can visit the event’s website here.